"Beware intellectuals. Not merely should they be kept away from the levers of power. They should be objects of suspicion when they offer collective advice. Intellectuals habitually forget that people matter more than concepts and must come first. The worst of all despotisms is the heartless tyranny of ideas." So writes British historian Paul Johnson on the last page of "Intellectuals," his 200-year survey of the damage done by brainy elites in public life.
That was in 1988, and the hit parade hasn’t stopped. A sequel could chronicle Hillary Clinton's debacle as health-care czar, Al Gore's phony climate panic, the failed presidential candidacies of uber-smart guys Michael Dukakis and John Kerry, and Barack Obama learning the hard way that being president requires different skills than being, in Sarah Palin's words, "a professor at a lectern."
Keynesian wonks, led by Larry Summers of Harvard, assured us that throwing a trillion or so at liberal pet projects would keep unemployment under 8 percent. IQ-meisters from all the right medical schools, tricked out in borrowed lab coats for the photo op, endorsed central planning for one-sixth of the economy, the better to keep us all healthy – until we flunk Rahm Emanuel’s brother’s cost-benefit test, at which time say goodbye.
From the massive wave of disillusionment at such policy quackery, reaching into the very core of Obama’s support – exemplified by Velma Hart, a woman, an African American, and a government employee, asking him on national TV, “Is this my new reality?” – comes the thundering electoral rebuke to his leadership that everyone now expects on Nov. 2. The Oz moment is over, and the unheroic little man behind the curtain is concealed no more.
The Tea Party movement is evidence of millions of Americans losing patience with the beneficent rule of enlightened experts that has been progressivism’s holy grail since the days of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, and raucously agreeing with Paul Johnson that “a dozen people picked at random on the street are as likely to offer sensible views on moral and political matters as a cross-section of the intelligentsia.” MORE likely, the Glenn Beck insurgents would roar, and they wouldn’t exempt the Republican intelligentsia either.